8 Tips for Working with Rescued Horses


Rescuing, rehabilitating and finding homes for more than 1,600 horses over the past 10 years, Pure Thoughts Horse Rescue co-founder Brad Gaver focuses his horse-training energy on teaching skills for life. Here, Gaver shares some tips for working with rescued horses:

  1. Spend as much time learning about the rescue horse as you can before you bring him home. Learn about his routine, training schedule, diet, strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Don’t focus on the horse’s past struggles. Instead, focus on the future.
  3. Use a positive reward system. “I don’t go out of my way to correct bad behavior,” says Gaver. “Instead, I teach appropriate behavior. Then negative behavior usually disappears.”
  4. Don’t assume there’s anything wrong; just guide the horse and go slow.
  5. Don’t overthink training or mistakes.
  6. Avoid food rewards; use rest and love instead.
  7. Don’t put a time limit on your goals. Give the horse time to decompress when you first bring him home.
  8. When you transition your rescue horse to his new home, make things easy for him by maintaining as much of his schedule as possible (especially meals and training).

One of the biggest mistakes that adopters make when bringing home a rescue horse is giving him a long break upon arrival. “This is one of the biggest reasons people return a horse,” Gaver says. “When a horse gets adopted out after he’s been on a journey to become mentally and physically fit, he needs a job and a routine.”

Back to Rescued Horses: The Lucky Ones >>

This article originally appeared in the January 2014 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!



  1. My husband and I have worked with rescue horses a few times and it is always a new and challenging experience. It really helps to focus on the future rather than the past and help them learn. Some friends of ours suggested using some alfalfa cubes as a form of reward. We usually use sugar so they would be interesting to try.


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